With the nerves shaken out and a victory under their belt, the Blue Devils can finally take a deep breath.
Friday night will be the first regular season home game for Duke’s four freshmen, Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey, Jr., who all saw significant minutes playing in the "World’s Most Famous Arena” earlier this week. Next up, they will get the opportunity to play on college basketball’s most legendary court.
Following a nail-biting 68-66 win against No. 3 Kansas Tuesday night, the No. 4 Blue Devils will continue its nonconference slate against Colorado State Friday in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m. The matchup against the Rams will begin a two-week stretch of much less daunting competition, as the Blue Devils will host Central Arkansas and Georgia State next week.
“I’ve just been talking to everyone in the team, asking, ‘How different is it going to be than the exhibitions?’” Stanley said. “It’s a totally different monster. It’s going to be insane. I’m super excited, ready to go out there and play hard in front of the Crazies.”
While the younger Blue Devils (1-0) are eagerly awaiting their first true taste of Cameron, the depth of this season’s squad ensures that many have seen their fair share of games there. The veterans on the team, including senior captain Jack White, have kept the freshmen ready for what’s to come.
“I just sense [the freshmen's] excitement the whole time, honestly. They just have enthusiasm for practices, kind of everything we do,” White said. “So I don’t think their preparation or mindset and such will change, but obviously having this place more packed for a real, non-exhibition game will lift them up even more. Just excited to see them in that environment and continue to see them get better.”
Coming into town for that boisterous environment is Colorado State (1-0), which is coming off of a 74-63 victory against Denver. The Rams are led by center Nico Carvacho, who withdrew from the NBA Draft to return for his senior season. The Chile native led the nation with 12.9 rebounds per game last season on his way to a first-team all-Mountain West selection. Duke will do its best to keep the big man from altering the game with his inside scoring and rebounds Friday.
“Going off a game where Kansas had three really big guys...everyone has to crash the glass,” White said. “Just making contact first and not giving them freedom of movement will be a big thing. I think if we can just do our work on them early, it’ll be a big plus for us in taking [Carvacho’s] impact away on the glass.”
White, Carey, Jr. and the rest of the Duke big men did an admirable job against Big 12 preseason Player of the Year Udoka Azubuike Tuesday, limiting the Kansas star to just eight points while forcing four turnovers. That kind of team defensive mentality was instrumental in the tight victory, as the 28 turnovers the Blue Devils forced made all the difference. With the upcoming nonconference schedule, Duke will seek to continue cementing defense as its identity.
“I think we showed on Tuesday that defense is obviously something we want to hang our head on and is one of our strengths,” White said. “We have a lot of guys that can come in and contribute, and especially that end—that’s something you can always control. You know how hard you can play.”
This game marks Colorado State’s first trip to Durham since 2011, when Duke easily handled the Rams 87-64. The Blue Devils will look to keep its streak of 147 consecutive nonconference home victories alive, a run that dates back to 2000 when the Blue Devils lost to St. John’s.
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